With the PSV – Feyenoord game in the background, Ajax's goal was to take care of business in this fifth round of play. This meant that the Ajacieds needed to earn the win at ADO Den Haag. However, this didn’t happen, despite an very good first half. After the break, Ajax retreated and was forced to relinquish a tying goal: 1-1.
In the final minutes, Ajax came close to scoring the winning goal several times, but ADO keeper Robert Zwinkels was, both literally and figuratively, a big obstacle. As a result, Marcel Keizer’s team suffered a loss of points and leader Feyenoord could potentially increase its lead to five points later in the afternoon.
Prior to kick-off in the Cars Jeans Stadium, the big question was who would play the centre forward position at Ajax. The experiment with two centre forwards against PEC Zwolle (3-0) may have resulted in a win, but overall, wasn’t a great success. Although Marcel Keizer had announced at the press conference that Kasper Dolberg was the first centre forward, his choice fell on Huntelaar, who had been outstanding last week with two goals.
Huntelaar had the first opportunity of the game. Sent in by Hakim Ziyech, he stumbled onto Zwinkels right in front of the ADO goal. At that moment, there was much more danger coming from the Amsterdam side. In The Hague, Ajax was in control in the first half, and had very little to fear from their opponent.
It was nothing short of a miracle that Ajax didn’t take the lead until the 28th minute, via a Veltman header from a Ziyech free kick, and that the lead was only one goal by halftime. Veltman’s scoring ability was unfortunately not replicated by Justin Kluivert or Amin Younes, or later by Younes or Huntelaar. The latter tried his trademark move. But an attempt to convert a pass from the very strong De Jong was met with failure.
Dangerous long-distance shots
ADO hadn’t been dangerous in the first half, but that changed immediately as the second half started. After a scrimmage, a ball disappeared towards the corner, but Andre Onana made the save with a feline reflex. After that, Ajax came close to bringing the score to 0-2 twice, with beautiful long-distance shots. Keeper Zwinkels ticked a shot by Ziyech out of the upper left corner and, after that, had luck on his side when a shot from De Jong landed on the crossbar.
But Ajax’s playing was not nearly as convincing as it had been before the break. It was reason enough for ADO, hopeless at the beginning, to keep the faith. Substitute Erik Falkenburg fired a serious warning shot onto the crossbar, but the Amsterdam team didn’t take heed. In the 70th minute, a pass from former Ajacied Sheraldo Becker was kept in the zone. The ball landed at the feet of Bjørn Johnsen, who successfully pulled the trigger.
After that, the game went back and forth, with dangerous moments in front of each team’s goal. Lasse Schöne hit the post, but on the opposite side, Falkenburg had a good opportunity with a header. The fact that ADO was spared a loss was down to keeper Zwinkels. The goalie was simply unpassable. He first stunted Huntelaar, after which he emerged victorious from ne fewer than four scrimmages, and to top it off, also stopped Matthijs de Ligt from scoring.
See also: In pictures | ADO Den Haag - Ajax